The royal said servicemen and women are “prized assets” which need to be continually invested in and should be thought of as high-performance athletes carrying their kit and a rifle.
The former Army officer, who spent 10 years in the forces, said during his time as a soldier physical conditioning was important, with troops warming up before a run or a loaded march, and the same approach should be applied to mental health for servicemen and women.
Speaking at the project’s launch, staged at the Ministry of Defence in central London, Harry told invited guests who included Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon: “The military has faced the challenge of dealing with things like post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.
“But, like many of you in this room, I have come to realise that we can all do more to promote the positive management of our mental health and, in doing so, help prevent some of these issues before they develop,” the Press Association quoted him as saying.
“This is what the partnership between the MoD and the Royal Foundation is all about – placing mental fitness and mental health at the heart of the training and support provided to the entire defence community.”
The joint initiative between the MoD and the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry comes days after the Foundation announced it will invest £2 million for the creation of a start-up company providing digital support to youngsters concerned about their mental well-being.
The partnership is the latest in a series of royal efforts to promote greater understanding and openness around mental health through the work of the Foundation’s Heads Together campaign, launched in May last year.
The MoD said the move will build upon a recently launched Government strategy aimed at improving mental health in current military workers, civilian staff, their families and veterans.
The Foundation will now offer advice and resources to improve training, education and information sharing for the whole of the armed forces.
Tobias Ellwood, minister for defence, people and veterans, who served with the Royal Green Jackets, said they were hoping the new project would create a cultural change within the Armed Forces around the issue of promoting mental fitness.
He said: “I remember my time in the Armed Forces, I did a little bit of bayonet training then we were told to think about the consequences of stabbing a sandbag, and that was as close as we got until the next step and we’re on the battlefield.
“We have to bear in mind, I was told this ‘Grab a man suit and suck it up’, these were the phrases that I was shouted at by a colour sergeant. It will be very much through the NCOs (non commissioned officers) that we hope that this will embed itself.”